PASSING OFFENSE: D — The offense ended a streak of 12-plus quarters without a touchdown when Brad Johnson connected with Marcus Robinson on a 29-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter. However, this area of the offense continues to lack any consistency and certainly isn't giving opponents any reason to respect them. The Vikings appeared to have an ideal situation going against a Buffalo team that ended up starting rookies Donte Whitner and Ko Simpson at the safeties. However, after Johnson attempted to find Troy Williamson on a deep pass on the fifth play of the game, the Vikings went back to their far too conservative ways and didn't give the Bills much reason to respect the vertical game until they opened it up a bit in the second half. The protection for Brad Johnson also was suspect as second-year right tackle Marcus Johnson appears to take a step back after playing a solid game against the Bears.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D — Chester Taylor had a season-low 10 carries for only 23 yards and the Vikings gained 63 yards on 16 attempts. Part of this might have been because of a sore ankle that has been bothering Taylor and because the Vikings went to the passing game more in the second half after falling behind 14-6 early in the third quarter. But it can't be glossed over that a very expensive offensive line isn't opening up many holes for Taylor and the free agent from Baltimore isn't proving to be a guy that is going to make a move or two that will make defenders miss. Taylor's first carry Sunday pretty much summed up his day as he was thrown for a 2-yard loss.
PASS DEFENSE: C — Bills quarterback J.P. Losman threw for 222 yards with a touchdown and had a 101.3 quarterback rating. What likely bothered defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin most was the fact that Losman gashed the Vikings for two 23-yard pass plays, another for 17, another for 16 and another for 13. Losman distributed the ball to eight different players. Cornerback Fred Smoot had a chance to wrap up Buffalo's Peerless Price for a loss deep in Minnesota territory after a screen pass but he was unable to do so. That enabled Price to go 8 yards for a third-quarter touchdown. Earlier in the same drive, the Vikings missed an opportunity to sack a scrambling Losman and the quarterback lobbed the ball over the head of cornerback Antoine Winfield and into the hands of Josh Reed for a 23-yard gain on second-and-20 from the Buffalo 42. The Vikings did make a change in their personnel in passing situations, having rookie cornerback Cedric Griffin rotate every other series with corner Ronyell Whitaker as the nickel back. Whitaker had been used in that spot for the first three games.
RUSH DEFENSE: B — There can be few complaints about the performance by this area of the defense. Bills running back Willis McGahee was held to 78 yards on 28 carries. He did score on a 1-yard touchdown run, but holding McGahee to 2.8 yards per carry means you had a pretty good day. The Bills attempted to establish they could run the ball up the middle, but nose tackle Pat Williams, a former Bill, and defensive tackle Kevin Williams would have none of that. The two big guys plugged the middle on several occasions.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B — Kicker Ryan Longwell made field goals of 37 and 49 yards and continues to have a very solid season. Longwell's 49-yarder was a season-long. Chris Kluwe averaged 32.5 yards on six punts, including one that traveled all of 9 yards. He has yet to find his rhythm this season. Troy Williamson appears to have returned to the full-time role as kick returner after being used in only specific situations a week earlier because of a shoulder injury that slowed him. Vikings special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro deserves credit for at least one maneuver in Sunday's game. Ferraro knew the Bills had a play that called for Rian Lindell to kick the ball high and short so his team can attempt to recover. Ferraro had the Vikings work on this in practice last week and told offensive lineman Jason Whittle and tight end Jim Kleinsasser that if Lindell did this they were to immediately call for a fair catch because that would mean they would have to be given a chance to catch the ball. Sure enough Lindell kicked the ball to Whittle's side of the field and Whittle called for a fair catch. The Bills recovered but were called for a penalty and the Vikings took possession.
COACHING: C-minus — Ferraro's coaching move was a good one but head coach Brad Childress has yet to show he's the offensive guru everybody expected. Childress came to Minnesota from Philadelphia, where he had been offensive coordinator, but watched Andy Reid call the plays. No surprise, Childress is now calling the plays in Minnesota and so far the Vikings are going nowhere. The offense gets conservative much too fast and doesn't open things up until it's panic time. The Vikings have struggled around the red zone but one problem is they aren't taking many shots in the end zone. Childress is going to need to find a way to fix this problem. Defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin continues to get about as much as can be expected from his personnel. Make no mistake, Tomlin is essentially the head coach of this defense.
Grading the Game: Bills
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